Tuesday, 25 October 2011

EU Referendum debate and fall out.

Despite a record Conservative rebellion of over 80 MPs (twice the amount as rebelled against John Major) the Government won with 483 vs 111.

When I left the debate yesterday at 10pm I was deeply concerned by the way it was looking. As a Europhille (cue booing and hissing) I knew that should a referendum happen then the chances of a an "out" vote being returned was exceptionally high. Unlike the AV referendum I had no illusions that the "out" vote was much more vocal but like a loyal foot soldier I would have wearily manned the Yorktown-esq redoubts against the odds and fort until consumed by the insurmountable odds and the smoke cleared.

I should make it clear that it is not that I don't think the British people should have a say. On the contrary I think a referendum should happen but not at the current moment in time.
The Economic crisis that has gripped, not just this nation but the whole world requires all of the EU member states to be involved and Britain is a major power and should be involved.
Also, in this country, the people's number one priority is not Europe. It's jobs, its paying the bills, keeping public services not blowing X million pounds on a referendum. Yes people feel passionately about Europe but the majority of people have it as a lower priority at this time.

However I should also stress that whatever the outcome I would have supported it and not complained. After all that is what Democracy is for; the rule of the majority. If I was in the minority, like the AV campaign, I would accept it, notch it up to experience and carry on.

Europe and Euro scepticism has always been an obsession within the Conservative party and it is a personal demon that they need to reconcile but within the confines of their party. They need to come up with a party line rather than carrying it out internal debate within Parliament. A year ago Peter Bone raised the question of a referendum in PMQs and segments of the party have been harping on about it since then. I know the issue isn't dead, nor should it be.
This is a debate that needs to be had in parliament and taken to the people but in the future rather than now. If anything the government should be concentrating on sorting out the economic mess we're in first before worrying about this ideological crisis. Strangely though I do respect the MPs who brought this to debate and also who had the courage and conviction to stand up to the three teir whips and Government pressure, it is a sight rarely seen so even though I think your cause was mistimed your conduct is exemplery.

As Nick Bowls said last night. We have one shot at making this work, one "Referendum" card to play at the negotiations table when hashing out a new deal. If we shoot our bolt too early then it will fail.
Europe is a grand project, and if it can be reformed, if it can be worked out then the benefits will be there for all. Work is being done to combat environmental problems, crime, terrorism... do we throw it all away?

I think what is needed is a calmer time, before 2015, when both sides can put across their side of the debate calmly and collectively without fear of the press or different groups spreading fear and hyperbole and then the referendum.

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